When Maurice Clarett started as a freshman tailback at Ohio State, people said he couldn't do it. Said he wasn't old enough, said he wasn't ready. Said Buckeye Head Coach Jim Tressel was crazy to start the Youngstown, Ohio native over some more experienced players on his roster.
The Big Ten is not a place where you experiment with a freshman in a skill position.
Tressell, Clarett in tow, laughed all the way to the National Championship.
As a Michigan fan, it has taken a great deal of work to swallow my pride and prepare to see one of the greatest Bronco careers come from a former Buckeye. I'm finally ready: Maurice Clarett will be a great running back. Right town, right system, right time. Get ready.
Clarett is a special kind of runner, one who sees the hole developing and gets there just as it opens, finding open space with decent speed and powerful running, having the instincts to make the right cuts at the right times. A slashing, powerful running back with a strong pair of legs that can run downhill and has enough strength not to be tackled from behind. These are the things that we all know.
Everyone complains about his speed, but he's never been a speed-type back, and I honestly don't understand the disappointment with his performance at the combine - the kid sat out for two years! The fact that he only lost two-tenths of a second in two years, then lowered his time again a few weeks later in his private tryout with scouts makes me think there's a lot more work ethic in this kid than people give him credit for.
Mike Shanahan knows exactly what he's doing. With his back against the wall, he made this pick knowing full well what all the media would say about how he's lost his mind, he's over the hill and past his prime. He had to know. He was taking a running back that was projected into the fourth or fifth round, and one who everyone involved with football knew had problems with attitude and authority.
Shanahan's been fighting his own PR battle in town, watching his boss, Broncos owner Pat Bowlen, field questions from an over-anxious media (yours truly included) about the Head Coach's status in the Denver organization.
As we'll see this year, rumors of Shanahan's demise have been greatly exaggerated.
Two men, each with his own reason to prove his doubters wrong, coming together to make their separate goals into one.
Sounds like a story we've heard before, and this story has a good chance of a very happy ending.
Sam DeWitt is a regular columnist for BroncosUpdate.com, and is a Denver native. His column is updated 1-3 times per week, and you can reach Sam at BUMoose@gmail.com with any comments or questions.